Overnight leader Neuville misplaced the rally result in Toyota’s Ogier within the day’s opening gravel check, however fought again to construct up a ten.9s margin on the finish of the Saturday morning loop.
Championship chief Kalle Rovanpera in the meantime boosted his victory hopes with two spectacular levels wins to take a seat 23.7s adrift in third.
Nonetheless, Rovanpera’s nearest championship rival and team-mate, Evans was compelled to cease on a street part to aim a repair on his GR Yaris that had developed an issue, dropping the Welshman to fifth (+1m54.4s).
Hyundai’s Dani Sordo climbed to fourth, whereas a puncture demoted team-mate Esapekka Lappi to seventh, behind Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta. Nonetheless Lappi stays forward of Ott Tanak within the sole remaining M-Sport Ford Puma after his maladies on Friday.
Saturday’s levels bore the brunt of the torrential rain of Storm Daniel earlier this week and the consequences of this excessive water occasion had been clearly seen.
The primary check, Pavliani (24.25km), held within the Greek mountains, featured treacherous moist and muddy sections extra paying homage to Safari Rally Kenya.
The tough circumstances performed into Rovanpera’s palms because the reigning world champion excelled to say his first stage win of the occasion. The Finn was 1.3s quicker than his eight-time champion counterpart Ogier, who made a major transfer within the battle for victory.
Ogier managed to take 10.6s out of rally chief Neuville to rework a 2.8s deficit into the rally lead, regardless of struggling a second within the stage.
Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Picture by: Toyota Racing
“A troublesome stage, the mud within the center was actually fairly difficult,” mentioned Ogier. “We had been aquaplaning and there have been some huge stones, we had been fortunate to not hit them with the wheel.”
Neuville was at loss to clarify the tempo deficit when he reached the stage finish, stating: “I had a great stage. I couldn’t actually do extra to be trustworthy.”
Evans additionally discovered the going robust, clocking a time 0.8s slower than Neuville, nevertheless it was sufficient to carry onto fourth total.
Staff-mate Katsuta appeared on the right track to ship a robust time, having been up on the splits in comparison with M-Sport’s Tanak, however a spin on the 18km mark value him 30s. Tanak was fifth quickest though the Estonian reported that his Ford Puma was down on energy.
Nonetheless, Hyundai’s Lappi fared even worse as damaged handbrake resulted within the Finn dropping 34.1s, however he maintained fifth by 3.3s from team-mate Sordo.
Lappi’s misfortune continued in stage eight (Karoutes, 28.49km), the longest of the rally and the primary fully bone dry gravel route of the occasion up to now.
Contact with a sizeable rock precipitated a puncture, costing Lappi 2m37.5s and dropping the Hyundai driver from fifth to seventh within the standings.
There was nevertheless pleasure for Hyundai as Neuville issued a formidable response to dropping the rally lead. The Belgian’s push was rewarded with a stage win, however extra importantly he was 9.8s quicker than Ogier, and reclaimed the rally lead by 2.0s.
Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Staff Hyundai i20 N Rally1
Picture by: Fabien Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport
Ogier’s time loss was inflated by a uncommon mistake from the Frenchman, courtesy of a half spin and a stall at a junction in direction of the tip of the check.
After successful stage seven, Rovanpera struggled within the contrasting dry and dusty circumstances of stage eight, posting the fourth quickest time, 1.3s adrift of Evans.
The drama continued in stage 9, nevertheless it was Evans who made the headlines. The Welshman abruptly slowed halfway by the extremely tough Eleftherochori 18.02km check, earlier than switching to EV mode.
Evans managed to limp to the stage finish, dropping greater than minute within the course of, however accomplished the journey again to service.
As Evans struggled, team-mate Rovanpera produced a blistering tempo in difficult circumstances to say a second stage win.
Neuville nearly matched the Finn’s velocity and simply 1.5s slower, however crucially the 2022 Acropolis winner took a 8.9s chunk out of rival Ogier, who admitted that “perhaps I used to be not daring to threat sufficient”.
Neuville will now take a ten.9s lead over Ogier into this afternoon’s second move of the levels.